Oakland's free Broadway Shuttle program is sticking around for at least another couple years, and beginning in 2013 the green buses will cruise downtown streets for three more hours each weekday evening. That's all thanks to a $723,000 grant announced yesterday from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Alameda County Transportation Commission. The grant also offsets $250,000 lost when California Governor Jerry Brown eliminated state funding of local redevelopment agencies late last year.
The shuttle currently operates on a continuous loop from Jack London Square to Uptown Oakland and back six days a week: Mon.-Thu. 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri. 7 a.m.-1 a.m.; and Sat. 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Thanks to the new grant, starting next January, Monday through Thursday hours will be extended to 10 p.m. "That means downtown commuters working late shifts can use transit to get home, and folks enjoying downtown’s bustling nightlife and dining scenes will have this free transit option until 10 p.m.," said city spokesman Harry Hamilton in a statement.
The Broadway Shuttle, launched in August 2010 as an economic development tool, was previously funded at its current hours through the end of the year. The program is supported by a total of eight funding sources, also including the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Jack London Square, two downtown community benefit districts, the Uptown Apartments, and the San Francisco Bay Ferry.
As we previously reported, the City of Oakland has even bigger plans in mind for the shuttle: converting it into a permanent streetcar line. "Because of the enormous success of the shuttle, a streetcar might be the logical next step," said program manager Zach Seal. Last summer, the city was awarded a $300,000 grant by CalTrans to study the feasibility of constructing a streetcar system linking Jack London Square with MacArthur BART. The city performed a similar $300,000 study between 2003 and 2005, which came down in favor of streetcars, yet the plan was ultimately abandoned due to funding shortfalls and other complications.
The second study began in May and should be complete by early 2014. After that, an environmental impact report — and plenty of fundraising — would follow. Construction could then take another three to five after years. Keeping the popular Broadway Shuttle around in the meantime will run a tab of at least $1 million a year.
Correction, 8/8: A previous version of this post incorrectly reported that the grant will offset $90,00 in redevelopment money. That amount is actually $250,000.